Dear Someone: No ‘Poo For You


Walker Lukens is a musician living and working in Austin, Texas. His latest album is called Devoted. His advice column Dear Someone runs semimonthly on Pop Press International. You can send in your own inquiries by emailing Walker here or by using the submission form at the bottom of this post. He’ll give you advice if you ask. 

Dear Walker,

How do I get an elegantly disheveled mop on my head like, say, yours? Do I have to spend a fortune?


Crew Cut Carl

– – – – –

Dear Crew Cut Carl,

When I moved to New York, I only knew girls my age and my grandparents. After a couple of weeks, I needed a haircut and did not have the slightest clue where to go. So, I did what we do these days when we don’t have a personal recommendation; I googled ‘mens salon NYC” and went to the cheapest one with the best reviews on Yelp.

Nickel Spa for Men had an almost antiseptic vibe. The entire building was either white marble or white sheetrock. The receptionist wore all black to match. They gave me cucumber-flavored water while I waited. When Cherry, the stylist, came to get me, she did not say hello or introduce herself. She did not shake my hand. She confirmed that I wanted a haircut and went to work.

In next thirty minutes, I learn what I will relearn at every subsequent visit to Nickel Spa for Men; “Cherry” is Russian. She was a doctor in Russia but has become a hairdresser since immigrating to NYC ten years ago. Her daughter speaks better English than Russian, which makes Cherry both proud and ashamed. She dates a lot. All men are better than her daughter’s father. She does not prevent her daughter from having a relationship with that scum. She thinks I look Jewish (I am not Jewish.) She does not know any other Irish people who are also Jewish. This is why she loves New York. She does not think very highly of any of the other employees at Nickel Spa for Men. My hair is too thick. She would like to study English with me as she cannot really write English, only speak. She believes her accent is very good in English. She would like me to confirm or deny this without qualifications. She lives in Brighton Beach like many Russian. Unlike many Russian, she only dates American men. She likes running her hand through my hair. Cherry does not miss Russia very much.

I will go to Cherry for almost two years. Repeating this litany helps Cherry work herself into a trance-like state that allows her to know what will look best for my hair. It costs me about $40—or, as I rationalized it then, one night of drinking. Carl, find your Cherry. Here’s a simple criteria: Do they cost more than $25? Do they have to wear a uniform to work? Do they insist on washing your hair before? Are their TVs in the salon? Are they so busy that they have to schedule you in advance? (The correct answers should be Y, N, Y, N, Y.)

Cherry does not like the men who come to Nickel Spa for Men. Superstitious people believe that cowlicks mean a person is a shaman, according to her. Cherry would have preferred me to not have any cowlicks. However, since I chose to have cowlick, Cherry would at least have liked me to put product in my hair to tame them. Cherry understood why I did not have a girlfriend.

By the spring of 2010, Cherry had been cutting my hair for 6 or 7 months. I was yet 23 years old, running on the fumes of college exuberance, chasing the perfect song, teaching ESL during the day, burning money at night, and as Tweedy would say ‘assassin[ating] down the avenue’—that is, not really looking for a girlfriend anyway, Cherry. I was vain and on the prowl but I did not buy expensive hair gel.

One Thursday afternoon after work, I met my friend Brett at an upscale cocktail bar because I needed to spend my last $50 on fine whiskeys I couldn’t taste the difference between and be available for the possibility that “Oh, Pretty Woman” might be the roadmap for my entire life.

Most of the evening was spent listening to a well-coiffed man close to my age give his opinions on a wide range of topics. In my memory, he had on a Hawaiian 50s style chemise and jorts and smoked cigarettes inside the bar, while I had on my jeans and was still in a pea coat. (just roll with it. Memory is fallible.) Between long drawls on his cigarettes, he informally espoused a sort hipster code of ethics that I silently judged between sips of needlessly expensive bourbon. Someone famous played jazz piano softly in the corner. ‘Broad’ was said. Don Draper came and left. I don’t remember how we got on the topic of hair care—as my mind plays back the evening, I see him produce a comb, drag it through his hair, and just began telling us without provocation—but our well-coiffed man was a hair stylist and he did not use any product in his hair or recommend it to his clients! In fact, he didn’t wash his hair! He didn’t even use soap on his whole body. “I use soap on my balls, butthole and armpits. That’s it. The rest of your body can take care of itself,” he said. How did he clean his hair? He combed it in the shower under hot water. How did his hair look? Elegantly disheveled.

Yes, Carl. I am an adherent of the No ‘Poo movement that is sweeping across America, that was good enough for millenniums until the cosmetic industry duped everyone in the 60s and 70s into using shampoo and conditioner. Stop using shampoo. You’re gonna go through a few days, possibly weeks, of looking like you were just birthed, but then you’ll be free and your hair will have enough natural grease that you won’t need any expensive hair product. Go buy some combs. Go find your Cherry and tell him or her that you’re sick of looking like an asshole. GO BUY A TICKET TO YOUR NEW STYLISH LIFE.



About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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